Toothsome post, as always :)
Your mention of a 50-year-old Malick arguing with his father over whether he would wear a tie to church spurred my latent script writing interest. (That, and I have tons of work to grade, and I'm stalling.)
So, without further adieu, here's my recreation of the Sunday morning "tie argument":
Terrence Malick, in the midst of his script preparation for The Thin Red Line, returns to his boyhood home for a weekend stay. The two-story farmhouse several miles from Waco is modest, but homey, and Terrence sleeps in his boyhood room, which his mother has left intact, with model airplanes hanging from the ceiling and his row of "junior level" philosophy books in his bookcase. He told his parents he wanted to come home to see them, but he's got another reason for visiting: he has an Agfa professional recording device to capture the bird sounds he remembers hearing in that yard--bird calls he's never heard anywhere else, and that he wants in his film.
Terrence, after passing a fitful night mulling over a particularly bothersome dilemma of whether Witt should look right, left, up, or down before being shot, is still in his own imagination, his eyes puffy and his beard in need of trimming. He has already dressed for church in a black suit, slightly rumpled and showing specks of lint here and there, because it wasn't taken to a cleaner's since he last wore it for church a year or more previously. His parents hear his heavy footsteps on the staircase, and prepare for his entrance.
Malick's mom: (cheerfully) Good morning, Terry. I'm making scrambled eggs. You still like those? (She eyes her son slowly to get a read on his mood as Terry ambles in to the breakfast table. She is quiet for a moment, as if debating whether to say it or not, then blurts it out). Oh. Son. You're not wearing that to church are you? The Stetzman's will be there. They're bringing their grandson here from UTSA. He wants to meet you.
Malick's dad: Your mother's right. Where's your tie, son?
Malick: (mumbling) Didn't pack one.
MDad: I've got a whole rack. Pick one out.
Malick grows ponderously silent, calculating how he can leave now with an excuse that he has an important script meeting in the morning he must prepare for. He stares out the kitchen window at the oak tree he loved as a boy, wondering how he can recreate this moment on film.
(Malick remains silent, his mind far away.)
MDad: A tie. You need one.
Malick: (conflicted, but determined to hold his ground.) Don't see the need. Haven't worn one in years.
MDad: While you're under my roof, you will wear a tie to church.
Malick: (mutters an indistinguishable foul word.) Don't forget who you're talking to.
MDad: (louder, but measured intonation) I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it. Hollywood man. That won't get you far around these parts.
Malick: (heavy sigh as he sits at the table) Pass me the eggs.
MDad: You'll wear a tie.
Malick: I'll eat some eggs.
I think that ambiguous ending is appropos, given our hero's nature. I'll bet Malick never wore that tie to church. There are some things a man just has to stand up for in this world.
Your Kansas correspondent,
> wrote: > Regards,
> Returning From The Wilderness
Welcome back from the wilderness! I can hardly believe
it's been forty days and forty nights already. Did you see any cool
phenomena or meet anyone unusual while you were wandering? Pick up a
few new ideas perhaps? ;-)
I've been aware for a while that Malick is a practising Christian. I
just find it very intriguing - hence my remark "the plot thickens" -
that he was described by someone as a "born again". Then again,
Dave's acquaintance may consider anyone who openly discusses their
religious beliefs in the work environment to be a born again. That
would be my first thought, too. For logical reasons, people are also
quick to equate professions of faith in regional American accents
with fundamentalism, so I'm hoping Dave gets the chance to ask his
acquaintance for more details.
Whatever the case may be, a step from "practising" to "born again"
Christian isn't really all that earthshaking. He could have converted
to Scientology back then, rendering years of reviews, articles and
theses (not to mention all our posts) completely invalid!
What I want to know, together with if he actually has been "reborn",
is what denomination or faith group he belongs to, if any. Oh nerdy
me - I actually find this sort of speculation much juicier than who's
doing whom :-). For a while I thought he was Catholic, but that was
based on an assumption I made after reading Jim Caviezel's story of
how he showed up at Malick's door and on some impulse gave his own
rosary to the woman who answered. She turned out to be Malick's wife
who had lost her own rosary that day and had just been praying to
find it again (cue in "oo - eeee" music from The Twilight Zone). The
devout Catholic wife made me think Malick was of the same persuasion,
but Catholics aren't all that shy of mixed marriages, especially with
Episcopalians and other Anglican derivatives. Episcopalian is the
other religious affiliation that people tend to assign to Malick. So
much as I loved your Pulp Fiction vegetarian quote....
The Vanity Fair article that Angela sent around contains the
following tidbits: Malick went to an Episcopalian prep school in
Austin called St. Stephen's; he and his Parisian wife Michele
occasionally attended Mass together in Paris, "Always preoccupied
with faith and religion, Malick knows the Bible well", that even at
the age of 50 Malick still had arguments with his father about
whether he should wear a tie to church, and his mother - to whom he
is very close - is Irish and his father is of Lebanese extraction -
both deadringers for a Christian upbringing. But none of this is very
conclusive about his particular affiliation. All I can say is that if
he was still going to church (with his family?) at the age of 50 he
must be serious about it :-).
I dug up the post of yours I was referring to, from Feb 20 when you
were discussing TNW with Chris. You don't mention anything about him
being a practising Catholic there (I'd like to read the one where you
did - maybe you can find it), but you say "since he was born again".
This always stuck in my mind because, judging from his films, Malick
seems deeply preoccupied with different forms of rebirth and renewal.
I also have the impression that he's been using more and more
Christian symbolism and references in his films since DOH. But given
the huge overlap between imagery pertaining to different spiritual
traditions and philosophies, some more concrete knowledge about
Malick's own beliefs would be awfully handy. You wrote: "What is
interesting is to watch Malick try to find the common ground between
Christianity and the faith of the Naturals, an internal conflict that
he no doubt has wrestled with since he was born again. Trying to find
the common ground between the existential and the metaphysical is a
maddening search in itself, never mind trying to reconcile this
within the bounds of Christianity."
So if you're on to something more than just hearsay (although that's
very interesting, too - he, he) regarding Malick's religious
upbringing, current denomination or being born again, that would be
As far as recanting goes, I still don't buy my friends' seagulls as a
Trinity symbol. They never bothered to back up their claim with
arguments, but these are the reasons for my hesitance:
1) An image pointing to the Christian belief in a triune God seems
far too specific a reference. Malick's visual symbols - like light in
the darkness or birds flying or flowing water (or even buns in
ovens...) - tend to fit well into a number of different religious and
2) Malick likes to cut away to a bird/birds in flight in general. To
me, such images seem to comment on freedom (in contrast with, say,
the many images of confinement in his films) or on a character's
newfound or desired freedom (of spirit). In TTRL and TNW they may
well refer to the spirit released from the body after death, as with
Pvt Witt and Pocohantas;
3) The seagulls fly over Witt's grave. Unlike Capt. Staros and the
solders who quote from the Bible or have Bible verses tatooed on
them, Witt is not portrayed as particularly religious or even
specifically Christian. One just assumes he is because he refers to
his mother going back to God, but he could just as well be a
Pantheist based on his voice overs. So the Holy Trinity doing a fly-
over above his grave isn't exactly the first thing I'd associate with
Pvt Witt. For the same reason, I'd find it quite a stretch to argue
that Pocohantas' VO: "Two no more. One, one." refers to the
Athanasian Creed which states that Jesus Christ is both perfect God
and perfect man, yet "is not two, but one." :-)
Now if someone pops up and says: "Hey, I just had lunch with a guy
who worked closely with Malick on TNW, and he said Malick repeatedly
boasted of having stuck a symbol of the Trinity in every one of his
films", that might make me reconsider...
I'm still trying to get my head around Malick's alleged homophobic
remarks. Good thing you and other American members brought up the
subject of rural Texan attitudes towards homosexuals. *My*
stereotypes about *Texans* incline me to think that he's not the only
one, but they also disqualify me from making the point myself ;-).
Here's something I am able to add. We have a number of Australian
male friends, all well-educated and well-travelled, and one is even
very into Eastern religions. Yet the minute the subject of
homosexuality comes up or mention is made of a mutual gay
acquaintance, they go into "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" mode, pull out
some choice Australian idiom and start telling gay jokes. Malick
might very well have felt quite at home in remote Queensland, where
attitudes towards "pufters", "sheilas" and "abos" are anything but
enlightened. On the other hand, I don't even want to think about what
he could have said that would seem "seriously homophobic" to an
Australian :-0 !
--- In email@example.com, "Andrew" wrote:
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "a_gapey" wrote:
> > Dave,
> > A born again Christian? Hmmm - the plot thickens. Did she give
> > more details on that? I've always had friendly disagreements with
> > some born again Christians I know, who are huge TRL fans, about
> > take on the three seagulls that fly over Pvt Witt's grave when
> > Welsh kneels beside it. They insist Malick inserted a symbol of
> > Trinity quick 'n dirty like, and I insist they're crazy. But now,
> > who knows...? I may have to recant :-).
> Recant, Agape. It's true. I'm surprised by all of this, because I
> thought it was common knowledge. I also think your friends are
> > I recall some post of Andrew's a while back mentioning in passing
> > that Malick was "reborn". Andrew, if you read this, can you
> > any?
> Yes. I was speaking before about how I found it incredibly
> fascinating that Malick is a practicing Catholic, yet his
> is so much different-- much more in line with Eastern or Native
> American beliefs than with Christianity. I wonder how he balances
> this spiritual tightrope? Does Bunty have something to do with
> (remember Samuel L. Jackson's line in PULP FICTION-- "His wife is a
> vegetarian, which pretty much makes him a vegetarian")?
> Like I said, I'm surprised that this is a surprise to any of you as
> thought it was common knowledge by now. I'll see if I can dig up
> printed references to this.
> As far as the homophobic comments go, I can't excuse this type of
> bigotry but I can say this-- as a rural Texan like Malick this type
> of behavior is prevalent among our peers growing up. You grow up
> learning it from your friends and relatives, and as an adult you
> unlearn it. Malick knows better and there is no excuse, but maybe
> his world view prevents him from unlearning this stupidity.
> Returning From The Wilderness
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